Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood has thanked manager Chris Wilder and Sir Alex Ferguson after finally fulfilling his Premier League dream.
Norwood, 28, has endured a long, winding road after departing Manchester United in 2012 having failed to make the first-team breakthrough at the club he had joined aged six.
He went on to win promotion to the Premier League with Brighton and Fulham, but moved on from both clubs the following summers as a top-flight appearance twice eluded him.
“There were some long, hard days,” said Norwood before the Blades’ first home Premier League game in 12 years against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“After being promoted at Brighton I went to Fulham and after the second time I thought maybe it’s not meant to be.
“But I never accepted that I wasn’t going to get there. I was determined to get there and all the hard work has paid off in the end.”
Norwood recalled the bittersweet moment during his departure from Old Trafford when former United boss Ferguson assured him he would play in the Premier League.
“When I was leaving he said ‘you’re not going to make it for Man United, but I do believe one day you will’,” Norwood said.
“Whether he meant it or not, you never know, but they were very kind words from a man of that stature.”
Norwood played a key role in Sheffield United’s promotion last season after joining them from Fulham, initially on loan, in August 2018.
But he remained sceptical after Wilder made it clear this summer that he would feature prominently in his Premier League plans.
“I didn’t know if he meant it because we were all that drunk!” Norwood added. “The gaffer’s been fantastic with me since I walked in the door.
“He’s put a lot of belief and confidence in me. Even last weekend, to give me the captain’s armband with Billy (Sharp) not playing, was an incredibly proud moment.
“To lead a football club of this stature in the Premier League, first time in 12 years, was a special moment and that’s the trust and the confidence the gaffer has in me, so I can only be thankful for that.”